Tag Archives: intermarche

Wednesday 13th April 2022 – GUESS WHO …

… has a broken kneecap? And for a fourth time too.

The first time was when I went head-over-handlebars on a motorbike when I was 16. The second time was when I slid a motorbike on a greasy road when I was 19 and the weight of two people and the bike itself (a 350cc Triumph) fell on it. The third time was skiing in Scotland when I was in my 20s – and I drove BILL BADGER, my old A60 van, home again.

As for when I did it in the fourth time, all that I can think of is that it was when I had that fall and broke my hand just before I went off on my transatlantic trip across to the High Arctic on THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR in the summer of 2019.

But taking a couple of years to manifest itself (it collapsed last spring, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall) is some going.

Anyway, retournons à nos moutons as they say around here, I had a lie-in this morning. Not that I intended to but at 07:30 – and at 08:00 – I couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm to leave my stinking pit. 09:25 was much more like it.

Having had my medication, sorted out the mails and messages and organised this week’s musical playlist on the computer, I had a listen to the dictaphone. And there was tons of stuff on there too. I’d had a busy night. No wonder I was in no hurry to leave my stinking pit.

The night started off with a huge long rambling dream about refugees. Again I had them with me and I arrived at a railway station. There were rooms above so we took a room above there. We had to carry all of their possessions up into the room above. That meant 4 or 5 trips in the lift to do it. There were all kinds of things happening – there was some objects still stuck in a lift from someone, I kept on bumping into all kinds of old schoolfriends while I was doing it, there was interaction with authority, one of those things that just went on and on and on while we were trying to move these refugees into this room. I’ve missed out most of it I think but the interesting part was of course all these people from school who kept appearing every time the lift either went up or went down and the doors opened. There would always be someone whom I knew waiting there. One person in particular was there once and also other people

So I had these refugees trying to get them into the upstairs room at this station passing by loads of people whom we knew. Some wanted arguments, some wanted help. I had papers from the Red Cross and had to show them. We were going up and down in this lift moving their stuff into this little room. The dream went on like this for ages. We met so many kinds of people and friends and one or two other people who helped us on our way but the farther we could get away from Vienna or Germany or wherever it was the better

My brother had bought a car, a Ford Cortina estate over the internet. A Mark IV model but he said that it was grey so we imagined that it would be the colour of my father’s old one. He was sitting down trying to work out how to get out and get it because his timetable was so full, he was going here and going there, he was having to work something else. In the end it was going to be several weeks before he could get it so I said that I would go for it. It turned out that it was near Foinavon that’s not the name but it’s on the railway line over Slochd Summit so that rules out Forsinard so of course the Inverness train is the place to go. I checked on the timetables, found the correct train and set off. I had to change at a big station to catch one of the stopping trains that went up the Highland line. The train pulled in and I checked with the guard that there was a local service coming up behind. All the doors closed and I thought that I’d missed the opportunity to leave the train but the door was opened from outside so I had to fight my way out. I found myself on some kind of temporary wooden platform which was just framework and no flats. There were people balancing awkwardly on there trying to enter the train and I was trying to alight. Other people who had already alighted were trying to work out how to go down to the main platform. I had to point them the way. This was a scene of total chaos as everyone who alighted from this train onto this wooden framework or whatever was trying to fight their way down to where everyone else was down on the main platform. I was thinking about all the things that needed doing, that I hoped that the car had enough fuel as it was getting late and I imagined that most places for fuel would be closed round here. I’d have to go to Inverness or Stirling or somewhere to fuel up and I hoped that everything else would be OK. I could imagine 1001 things that could go wrong between me picking up the car and brining it back home again.

I don’t know how this one started but I was working in the American embassy doing something, running errands. There was some kind of issue with the Russian desk in this large building and the Russians suddenly started firing loaves of bread over to the Americans. I caught a few and stored them up but they were coming over more and more and more. Eventually there was a pause so I walked across the hall to the Russian desk, found their senior officer, thanked him very much for sending all the bread to me but I told him that I now had enough fresh bread that I needed so if he wanted to send me any more could he make sure that it was frozen so that I could keep it in store. This was greeted by stunned silence throughout the building. After I had said my little piece I walked back to where the American desk was. I was beckoned over to the desk of the Ambassador’s personal secretary. She said “don’t you ever do anything like that ever again” but she was laughing and so was everyone else. I imagined that although i’d been told off, that everyone else was really quite sympathetic and really quite pleased that I’d gone out there and confronted them over it.

We were a big group of teenagers last night wandering around the streets of Crewe. I can’t remember how this worked out but we ended up at the house of a girl to do something. Her mother came to the door and in the end she fetched this girl. We were all around the back having something of a laugh etc. This girl was being quite chatty and quite friendly. Then it became time for us to leave so I asked her for her ‘phone number. She was possibly playing a game and in the end ended up trying to give me her father’s ‘phone number. She said that she could always remember it because it was 8 over 6, the 6 numbers at the end. Of course I immediately told them what it was, which was 675000 (which of course it isn’t). She gradually warmed a bit and in the end asked me for my ‘phone number. I didn’t have a card on me so I had to borrow a card off someone else, try to write my number but we didn’t have a pen that worked. In the end she decided that she would ‘phone me so that I’d have her ‘phone number and she’d have mine. That was what she did. But all of this took ages and there was much more to it than this but I can’t remember now. It was another one of these dreams that slowly developed into something extremely warm and pleasant and the type that I would want to carry on for ever. I awoke in a night sweat, which I haven’t had for a good few months. “I wish that this could have gone on for ever, this particular dream” I said into the dictaphone, so being able to talk like that while I’m asleep shows you exactly what kind of effect it had on me.

But low-flying loaves of bread as well? As I have said before… “and on many occasions too” – ed … what goes on during the night is much more exciting than anything that happens to me during the day these days.

To take me up to shower time I had a play with a few more photos of the High Arctic 2019 and I wish I could remember the name of the hill on which the flagpole is erected at Dundas Harbour on Devon Island. All that I can think of, and I know that it’s not correct, is the painter Samuel Gurney Cresswell who sailed to the High Arctic as Lieutenant with James Clark Ross and then with Robert McClure.

If I had to pick one of my favourite Arctic explorers he would be up there somewhere, not the least for his quote “a voyage to the High Arctic ought to make anyone a wiser and better man”. Well, it didn’t work for me, as the events of the last few days of my 2019 trip bear witness.

After a shower and a weigh-in (and I’ve lost 600g) I had lunch and then cleared off with Caliburn to the physiotherapist. It’s my last session with her today as she moves on to pastures new. She’s fixed me up with a colleague, but I bet that the new girl won’t be anything like as nice as Sonia. She can massage my clavicles any time she likes.

The trip to Avranches was complicated today because of all the roadworks and road closures. I ended up having to meander through the countryside and then it took me a while to find the centre. And when I found the centre, to find the building where I needed to be.

The scanning machine was made by General Electric, one of my former employers, so I knew that it would be good. And eventually they shoved me through it.

The doctor came to see me afterwards and told me about my kneecap, and also the fact there’s some cartiledge damage too. She’ll send a report to my GP who I’ll have to go to see in due course, but I have to be aware that surgery is not ruled out

There was an Intermarché next to the clinic so seeing as it’s been a few years since I’ve had a good look around inside one, I popped in. But there wasn’t anything there much that interested me. I bought one or two bits and pieces and some frozen peas and beans, and that was my lot.

Then I had to fight my way back through the roadworks. And it was good to give Caliburn a decent run-out this afternoon.

Tea was a taco roll (seeing as I had bought some this afternoon) with the left-over stuffing from yesterday, with rice and veg and it really was nice. But I have plenty of mushrooms left so it looks as if it will be a potato and mushroom curry for tea tomorrow.

So a broken kneecap now. Whatever next? At the rate that bits are dropping off me these days I’m at the stage where I’m afraid to go to the toilet.

In fact I haven’t felt so nervous since I was standing in a toilet next to Shakin’ Stevens but that’s another story for another time.

Wednesday 22nd July 2020 – BACK HOME

Yes, I’ve been back home today.

And before anyone suggests that it’s rather a long way for me to drive in my current circumstances, that isn’t actually what I mean.

For a change I was awake quite early, and so there was time to listen to the dictaphone

It was a confusing voyage last night. There were quite a few of us and I’m not quite sure of what we were doing and where we were going but we were all young teenagers, that kind of thing or a few maybe even younger and that’s basically all that I can remember.

While I was typing out all of that I even had a cup of coffee brought to me in bed. And how any years is it since that ever happened?

Having dealt with all of the paperwork I went down to breakfast and then decided (just for a change) to organise myself.

I emptied everything out of the back of Caliburn, tidied him a little, found a pile of rubbish that needed throwing away, and then threw a few gardening tools in the back.

Having made two phone calls, we set off.

First port of call was in St Eloy where I bought some petrol in a container. Second, also in St Eloy, was for some rubber gloves and a pile of rat and mouse poison.

les guis virlet puy de dome france eric hallWe then disappeared off into the countryside and ended up back at home – my old place in Les Guis.

Time hasn’t been kind to it at all. In the couple of years since I’ve been there nature has totally overwhelmed it and it was something like an Amazon rainforest.

But by now Ingrid had arrived and the three of us set to with a will. I went ahead with Terry’s brush-cutter and cut a swathe through the vegetation, with Rosemary and Ingrid following on behind with the clippers.

les guis virlet puy de dome france eric hallAnd it was really hard work too there. The heat didn’t help very much.

What also didn’t help much was all of the objects hidden in the undergrowth. The brushcutter and its blade looked as if it had fought a war (which it probably had) as I hacked my way through the undergrowth.

All of this in just a couple of years since Terry and I were here last picking up the mini-tractor. It’s hardly a surprise that lost cities are still being discovered in the Amazon rainforest with vegetation growing like this.

les guis virlet puy de dome france eric hallBy the time that 14:00 arrived, we had reached the house and could go in all of the doors there.

And how sad everything was, with reams and reams of cobwebs, dust and everything all over the place. And we were exhausted too by this point and so called it a day.

As we weresitting around chatting, a neighbour came round to see us and to see how things were and we had a little discussion. But Ingrid went off for her appointment and Rosemary and I came home for a rather late lunch.

Later on, I went back to my house. Those two phone calls that I’d made earlier – one had been to Ingrid and the other had been to someone else.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I’ve been slowly replacing the windows in the house and that I bought a matching front door. That needs a new doorframe building but because it has to be in hardwood and not softwood, it’s beyond the capacity of the tools that I have here.

Previously, I’d made “local enquiries” and someone had come up the name of a reliable joiner. It had always been my intention to have a joiner make a doorframe, so I had phoned him up.

Much to my surprise (and yours too) I asked him when he would be free. He replied “I can come at 18:00”.

You can’t put obstacles in the path of willing workmen so I arranged to meet him at the Intermarché in Pionsat. We drove up to the house and he did all the measurements. While I was at it, I mentioned the third window that is yet to be installed. “I’ll do that as well if you like”.

And why not?

So the arrangement is that I’ll drop off the door on him tomorrow and leave him to it. There’s no time schedule – he can do it whenever he’s free. Which won’t be before September because all of the sawmills will be closed for summer holiday.

Having bid my farewell, I drove back to Rosemary’s where she had made tea.

A shower to clean myself up and to wash my clothes was next and then, shame as it is to say it, I crashed right out.

The exercise had clearly affected me and I felt that I had done quite enough for today. I’ll write up my notes in the morning.

Tuesday 23rd January 2018 – AND IN NEWS …

… that will surprise, if not shock, regular readers of this rubbish who have been following my vicissitudes with bated breath, according to the medical examination that I was given this morning by a doctor who works in partnership with the French Government, I am considered fit enough to drive a 44-tonne articulated lorry or a bus with 75 paying passengers on the public highway.

Last night was another miserable night, having gone on yet another lengthy travel, the details of which were immediately wiped from my memory as soon as I awoke. And I staggered off into the living room with no medication and no breakfast this morning, for obvious reasons.

Nevertheless I did manage a shower and a change of clothes though – I need to look my best for my appointment at 09:15.

inondations quetteville sur sienne floods manche normandy franceAt about 08:00 I hit the road for Countances.

And it’s a good job that I allowed myself plenty of time because I needed it. Quetteville sur Sienne isn’t “Quetteville on Sienne” at all – it’s “Quetteville-in-the-Sienne” right now.

You’re all aware of the weather that we’ve been having just recently. While most of Europe has been swaddled in snow these last few weeks, we’ve had nothing but torrential rain

inondations quetteville sur sienne floods manche normandy franceAs a result the Rivier Sienne has burst its banks and the outskirts of the town (the town itself is perched on an eminence) are flooded.

It’s completely cut off to the north and so all of the traffic heading to Coutances and Cherbourg is diverted down a country lane. And by the looks of things, a couple more days of this weather and this won’t be passable either.

It certainly messed up my arrival.

But I was there in good time and, as luck would have it, I found a parking place right outside the doctor’s at the back of the sous-Prefecture. And that’s not something that happens every day either, is it?

Being early, I was first in. And out again after 10 minutes.

And this medical is a total farce. I hadn’t said anything about it because I was convinced that I would fail it, with my well-documented medical history. And I was determined to answer every question honestly, truthfully and completely. Which I did.

The only problem with that though is that he only asked two or three questions – and nothing of any significance.

The scar on my chest from neck to navel and the chemo port in my left shoulder should have given the game away but, unbelievably, he stethoscoped me with my tee-shirt on.

A test of my vision and a few exercises in co-ordination, and that was my lot. I’m fit to drive a 44-tonne artic or a bus on the public highway. And if that’s an example of a medical undergone by every other lorry or bus driver in France, then God help the average motorist.

ruins coutances manche normandy franceBeing out early, I had plenty of time to kill. And so I went for a wander around the town.

Coutances is a Roman town, named for the Emperor Constantine, but was destroyed by the Vikings in 866, the French in the 12th Century (Normandy was an independent Duchy until 1204), the Huguenots in the 16th Century, the town planners in the 18th Century and the Royal Air Force and American Air Force on 6th June 1944 and a couple of days thereafter.

And so there are traces of ruins here and there about the place, and you can’t really identify them or say who it was who destroyed them.

coutances manche normandy franceBut the Allies’ bombardments killed well over 300 civilians and there’s a monument to them at the back of the cathedral.

And I do have to say that I was very disappointed in this monument. I could have done something better and more powerful than this, and I expected to see at least a list of names of those who died.

But apparently not. And I can’t understand why

cathedral coutances manche normandy franceAs for the cathedral itself, it remained surprisingly undamaged during the bombardment. Clearly, the Devil looks after his own.

But then again, it has suffered enough.

The first recorded church on the site (this isn’t of course to say that there weren’t earlier ones) dates from about 430, and the story goes that a heathen temple was cleared away to make the space.

This chirch was destroyed in the Viking raids, and when the town was reoccupied at the beginning of the 11th Century, construction of the cathedral began.

When the French took over from the Normans, they completely redesigned the cathedral and what wasn’t demolished was hidden by their modifications.

interior cathedral coutances manche normandy franceThe interior of the Cathedral is nothing much to write home about.

I was expecting something spectacular give the cathedral’s fame as one of the favourite churches of William the Conqueror and as a pilgrimage venue, but it’s nothing like that at all.

It’s actually quite spartan ad even the stained glass windows are nothing like as flambouyant as you might expect.

interior cathedral coutances manche normandy franceThe cathedral is the “Cathedral Notre Dame” – the Cathedral of Our Lady, and so ypu might be forgiven for expecting to see statues of Mary and Jesus all over the place.

But you’ll be very disappointed, because I couldn’t see any statue of any significance.

And as for the Chemin de la Croix, we’ve seen some exotic symbolisation on our travels, but here, there were just a few notices with numbers written thereupon – no paintings or statues at all.

town hall hotel de ville coutances manche normandy franceThe Twon Hall across the square though is certainly splendid and does the town a great deal of credit.

I’ve no idea when it was built, but a great deal of civic construction took place in the period of the “Second Empire”, so it’s quite possible that it dates from that period – the third quarter of the 19th Century.

The fountai in front of it was rather disappointing though. I was expecting much more than that.

coutances manche normandy franceI’m not sure how much the town hall was damaged by the bombings of June 1944, but you can tell that the surrounding area was pretty badly hit.

You’ll notice the building on the left – the row of shops with flats over the top (this is actually a hotel here). Go to any French town that was badly damaged during the war and you’ll see this style of building in every town centre.

Designed by architects such as Louis Arretche, they were designed to be thrown up in a matter of a couple of days to bring back the life into the town centres as quickly as possible, and they’ve withstood the pressure of time rather well.

At 10:00 I was outside the mobile phone repairer’s, and at least, they decided to have a look at it. And that’s progress. They would call me back.

I went for a coffee and then to do some shopping. Apart from the usual stuff that I need, I found a cheap shop and bought some stationery and also a new dash-cam – for just €11:95. I already have one but I don’t like it much – it’s big and obtrusive but it will do to take to Canada and install in Strider. The new little one, I’ll put in Caliburn.

They called me back bang on midday. They couldn’t get it to work so could I come by and pick it up?

Not until 14:00 after lunch so I grabbed a baguette and some stuff to go on it and had a quiet relax in the rain.

There’s an Orange shop in the town so I went in to see what they had. Strangely, they didn’t want me to browse the stock, but they would give me a “special deal”. They would knock 50% off one of their phones for me and let me have it at … errr … €349.99.


Down the hill at the repairer’s, they also tried to fix me up with a deal. And while it might have bee more attractive, it wasn’t that attractive. So they suggested I try a phone laboratory in Saint-Lô who might be able to repair mine.

But when my new UK credit card arrives (I posted off all of my letters this morning too) I have another idea.

Having done all of that I came home, to find that yet another problem has arisen at the Bank. I’m not saying too much now, but I’m going out tomorrow to buy a pick-axe handle and I shall deal with the issues in the traditional manner by impressing my message into the skull of the bank manager in Morse Code with the aforementioned.

Having exerted myself quite a lot today, I crashed out for a couple of hours too. And I’m not surprised. And then it was tea. Microwaved potatoes with home-made burger in a bun from the batch at Liz’s, and vegetables. delicious it was too.

stade louis dior us granville manche normandy franceAnd then it was walkies. Around the headland.

And that was where I should have been had I been able to exert myself the other day. At the football. And Granville won too – 3-2 in extra time. Just 16 clubs left now in the Cup and I wonder who they’ll draw in the next round.

Rest assured – I’ll be camping out at the ground the night before and I’ve asked if, if the match is “away”, whether there will be any buses running.

But now it’s bed-time. I’ve done over 100% of my daily activity target and that’s enough for today. All 1560 words of it.

Wednesday 3rd May 2017 – I’VE BEEN TO COUTANCES …

… more times today that I have been in the rest of my life.

Well, anyway I reckon so, because when I was there a couple of weeks ago I didn’t see anywhere or anything that made me think that I had been here before when Nerina and I did out Grant Tour of Normandy and Brittany in 1991.

But last night, once I finally managed to drop off to sleep, I slept the Sleep Of The Dead and it wasn’t until the alarm went off that I awoke.

Terry and I were on our own today after breakfast and I had to go into Countances for the stuff that we needed for today’s exertions – the pipes for the plumbing of the heating in the kitchen, some more metal studding for the walls and a few other bits and pieces too. While I was out at the shops Terry started to fit the wooden bracing supports on the wall where the kitchen units will be.

Upon my return I helped Terry finish off the bracing and then we had a mega-tidy-and-clean-up, which took us up to lunchtime.

After lunch we fitted the insulation and the plasterboard on the ceiling in the hall, and that was quite exciting seeing as there was just two of us. And then an inventory of stock showed us that we were still short of what we needed and so I had to return to Coutances.

While I was there, I noticed that the Intermarché had a couple of small 6kg washing machines on offer at just €199. There’s plumbing for an automatic washer at my new place and so this could be a possibility.

Back here, we finished off the day by installing all of the studding down the wall that runs down the front of the kitchen and the hallway. That took a while as there were many fiddly bits to be done.

Liz had done a machine-load of washing for me before she went. I’d found a bag full of dirty washing at the bottom of the pile of stuff in Caliburn and so I’d put it all in an empty black holdall similar to the one that I use for travelling that had a set of clean clothes and stuff like that. And then I’d brought the wrong one with me and left behind in my apartment the one that I should have bought. And so tonight I had a shower in the gorgeous new shower here and a change of clothes to make me smell nice – if that’s at all possible.

The Electrickery Board has changed the time of my re-connection on Friday to between 13:00 and 17:00 so I’m staying here tomorrow to give Terry another day of help, and I can sleep here until Friday morning. That will take me nicely into town on Friday morning to do the essential shopping to start myself off.

The big question is, though, will I have faded away by Friday morning? At this rate I wouldn’t rule it out.

Saturday 25th March 2017 – I’VE JUST SEEN …

… the most extraordinary football match.

Puy-de-Dome League Division 4 and two teams – St Gervais d’Auvergne III at home to Charbonnières II. Charbonnières were streets better than St Gervais – they missed a sitter almost from the kick-off but took the lead after about 5 minutes with a soft goal through the St Gervais keeper’s legs.

All one-way traffic it was with Charbonnières making it look so easy, and only some last-ditch outstretched feet and some astonishing saves by the St Gervais keeper who, I reckoned, knew absolutely nothing about any of them, just being in the right place at the right time and diving the right way, prevented Charbonnières from running riot.

But it was all too easy for Charbonnières and after about half an hour they eased off for some reason or other, and I don’t know why. And then the inevitable happened. A harmless cross into the penalty area, the Charbonnières keeper palmed it away, the loose ball hit one of his own defenders on the back and rolled across the line into the net.

Stunned silence from the crowd.

In the second half, Charbonnières struggled to get going. St Gervais were quite awful but they were slowly growing in confidence, with the opponents becoming more and more frustrated.

And then it happened.

A cross from the wing into the centre of the field, a St Gervais player hitting it on the half volley, and there we were, a most unlikely 2-1 for St Gervais.

Even more unlikely was that St Gervais scored a third just minutes later!

As the game progressed, Charbonnières finally awoke and went back on the rampage, with some more outstretched feet and some very fortunate goalkeeping keeping them out. But they did pull one back from a free kick with just minutes to go.

In the final minute or so Charbonnières threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the St Gervais defence, and then we had a wild clearance out of the defence. The Charbonnières defenders had the idea of stepping up three paces to catch the St Gervais attacker offside.

But ohhh woe! Woe!

They were in the St Gervais half, and an attacker can’t be offside if he’s in his own half. The attacker picked up the ball, advanced totally unopposed on the Charbonnières goal and slotted the ball underneath the isolated keeper. 4-2.

And that was that. And the crowd are still shaking their heads even now.

The second match was between the St Gervais Second team and the First XI of Charbonnières, and this was much more evenly matched. Charbonnières took the lead with a good header, and as the game wound down towards the end, they slowed down the game. But two dramatic late goals from St Gervais turned the match around and Charbonnières then tried to speed up the game. But they couldn’t come back.

We had a few little niggles but all-in-all it was a good game.

But I’ll tell you something. I complained the other day about the lack of solidarity that I have received from most of my “friends” in the Auvergne. Today, there were several people whom I knew from Pionsat’s football team and while they all said “hello”, not one of them came to sit with me for a little chat, even though it’s been 18 months or so since I was last at a match and they all know about my health issues.

I’m really disappointed about that.

So last night was another bad night for me – awake in the middle of the night and then wide awake definitively at about 05:45. Up here in the attic (with a fire burning) long before the alarm.

After a brief rest I took a pile of boxes downstairs to Caliburn and loaded him up, and also put in some stuff from the verandah. Then I nipped off to the Intermarche at Pionsat for some bread and so on.

I didn’t do much when I returned, and after lunch I crashed out for an hour or so.

But before going to the football I removed almost all of the boxes from the attic and put them in Caliburn. That was heavy work and exhausted me completely. There’s still stuff to pack up here, but that’s Tuesday morning’s job.

And now I’m back from the footy I’m going to be doing the washing-up and then going to bed.

Sunday is a day of rest, but I bet that it won’t be.

Tuesday 21st March 2017 – AS FOR LAST NIGHT …

… it was nothing like as good as the previous one.

But then again, there’s a good reason for that. And that is that somewhere in the middle of it all I had a very severe attack of cramp. And severe it was too -it kept me awake for ages while I tried to calm it down. And then it would go, so I would turn over, and it would come back again. This went on for hours, I reckon.

And then, I was awake at 06:00 – such are the perils of having an early night. I really do need to get my life back on track.

After breakfast I had a little relax and then slowly headed off into Pionsat.

First port of call was the Intermarché and a loaf of bread for he next couple of days. Man might not be able to live by bread alone, but I can if I have some stuff to go on it. Next port of call was the bank because I need to make some kind of financial arrangements for my future. They fixed an appointment for tomorrow at 16:30.

But outside, I bumped into Simon. Long time no see indeed but news of my impending demise had even filtered through to him. He invited me for a coffee and I agreed – but a little later as I still had two things to do.

The most important was to contact my internet supplier and have a moan about my Livebox not working. After much binding in the marsh they agreed to send out a technician to sort me out. At my charge of course, but some things you need to do. That’s tomorrow morning too.

And then round to Clare’s. She had been concerned about me when I was missing the other week and had even gone round to my house to see if I had arrived there. I had to express my gratitude and offer a bottle of wine in recompense. It’s the least that I can do in the circumstances.

I had a good chat with Simon and Desirée at their little office. I’m amazed at how domesticated and suburbanised Simon has become since he married. It’s clearly doing him good, so good luck to him.

Back here, my exertions finally caught up with me and I was stark out for a few hours. And then I began a little desultory packing, with a pause to watch a film. That took me nicely up to tea time, when a couple of handfuls of pasta, some vegetables and tomato sauce did the trick. I wasn’t all that hungry.

And then, bedtime. No idea why I’m so exhausted. It’s not as if I’ve spent too much time running around today – physically, that is.

And so I have realised, rather unfortunately, that I’m not going to be able to keep on going out here. I don’t even have the energy to pack up this place. Or anything like it. I am just not up to it. Even climbing up the stairs into the attic is killing me.

I shall have to take what I’ve got in Caliburn and head off to find some peace and solitude somewhere.

What a shame!

Thursday 8th December 2016 – LAST NIGHT, I DIDN’T …

… have such a good night’s sleep. I dozed off quickly enough, even with the radio on, but I was soon awake again when something loud came on the radio. And once I’d sorted that out, I couldn’t go back to sleep again for ages.

However,I must have done because the alarm awoke me. And then it took ages to leave the comfort and warmth of my bed. I’d been on my travels too for some part of it, wandering around somewhere with a young lady.

For the first part of the morning I pottered around and then set off for the garage to leave Caliburn for his wheel bearing.

peugeot 306 courtsey car garage jailot st gervais d'auvergne puy de dome franceThe courtesy car was there too this time. It’s a 1994 Peugeot 306 with 308,000 kilometres on the clock and a rear flasher that didn’t work.

There wasn’t any diesel in it either so I had to put 12 litres in it to get me about, an don my way back home I went via the Intermarché at Pionsat for a little shopping and to visit the bank.

Liz phoned me up too and we had a good chat.

After lunch I carried on with the tidying up in here, slow as it is, and then went down to see how Caliburn was doing. But he wasn’t ready and that’s something of a disappointment as I would have been on the road tomorrow had he been ready. Now, I have no idea when i’m going to leave here.

Tea was mushrooms, green beans, vegetables and pasta in tomato sauce cooked in the oven. And that was nice too.

So let’s have an early night and see what tomorrow will bring us.

Friday 20th May 2016 – AND I’VE BEEN OUT TODAY TOO!

After breakfast I had a few things to organise and then round about 09:30 I hit the road for my place, calling at the Intermarché at Pionsat on the way in order to buy some bread for lunch.

At home I had a little rest of an hour or so and then I started to collect up the stuff that I need for Belgium (and also for Canada, just in case I have the possibility to go there later this year). A few things I couldn’t find, and a few things I forgot, but I’ll call there tomorrow on my way out to the motorway and finish off a few things.

This afternoon, I took it easy. I’ve cut my hair and had a shower – so I’m nice and clean and tidy ready for the journey back home. I’ve done a load of washing too and even as I speak, it’s going round and round in the dryer because there won’t be enough time to dry it properly.

I’ve not planned my food resources correctly because I have some mushroom and lentil curry and also some home-made vegan ice cream left over. I’ll just have to come back another time to finish it off.

And now I’m off for a very early night. There will be no alarm clock in the morning because I intend to have a good sleep if I can. I’ve a long way to drive tomorrow and I’m not really up to it. I’ll have to do my best and see what happens. I can’t expect too much in my state of health.

But what was nice was that I had an e-mail from the Social Services department asking me how I was feeling and whether I’d been able to manage the journey back. That was a very pleasant e-mail – it’s nice to know that they have been thinking about me.

I didn’t catch up on my last night’s voyages, I was off on a different track completely. While I was waiting yesterday for Caliburn to have his contole technique, I was reading the local paper and noticed a story concerning someone whom I know in Pionsat. He’s been fighting a complicated legal battle for the last five years and judging by the news story and his post on his Social Networking site last night, he’s finally been successful.

And so last night, on my travels, I was involved with him in some way. It’s pretty-much a truism to say that there are no winners amongst the civilian population in a lengthy court case because whoever comes out on top, his card is marked and the authorities are hell-bent on revenge. And this was the case last night. This boy was harassed and harassed by the authorities and in the end was carried off and convicted of something or other. He’d left some of his possessions with me while he was away and I discovered a secret compartment in his affairs and the contents of this compartment went to show that maybe he wasn’t as innocent as he liked to appear. But, then again, who is? As you probably know, I have a theory that all humans are pretty much the same in the grand, and some are caught and others are not and that is the big difference.
Later on during the night I went for a walk and came across a huge mansion-type place across a field and lake and through a forest of cherry trees laden with blossom. I didn’t have my camera with me so I went back for it and then walked through the lake (it wasn’t very deep at first but I ended up over my knees by the time I reached the other side) to take a photo but of course my camera wouldn’t work. It turned out that this was some kind of Girls’ Schools something along the lines of Ampleforth College,with the girls wearing red and white checked dresses. This all rang a bell with me because I’d sat on some kind of committee where some novel educational programmes submitted by various schools had been judged, and while the winner was from some kind of mainstream school, one that had particularly impressed the committee was one that had been submitted by a person who had since gone on to become a senior teacher at this school. I was therefore interested to see if any of these novel ideas had been applied at the school and after having presented myself to the headmistress, I was granted research facilities at the school to examine the teaching and the recreational activities. I quickly adopted a committee of three sixth-form girls. I was impressed with the keenness and throughness of these girls, but not so impressed with the fact that when the bell went for the end of the day they immediately deserted and left me to do the tidying up and that sometimes went on for quite a while. One one occasion I went round to their room and “swept them out” with a large-bristled brush. Another thing that impressed me about the school was the fact that all of the food was vegetarian, although I was unable to find out if there were vegan options.

Tuesday 17th May 2016 – I’VE BEEN OUT AND ABOUT TODAY

So having gone to bed quite early last night, I ended up chatting to Alison and Liz on the internet. And then, having dozed in and out of sleep for hours, it was midnight when I switched off the radio and finally settled down for the night.

I had quite a few trips down the corridor, what with one thing and another, but was wide awake by about 06:30, having been off to Stoke on Trent during the night. I’d bought a Land Rover chassis-cab with a crane or winch on the back. It was in good condition but a little scabby but down in the scrapyard we discovered two perfect doors (although of a slightly different colour) so we bought them and fitted them. The next task, as my friend explained to me, was the rear valance and he sorted out his angle grinder and wire brush to de-rust it so that we could paint it over. Zero came over for a chat too, which was very nice because it’s been a good few weeks since she’s appeared in one of my nocturnal rambles.

After breakfast I started to organise myself. I sorted out all of the washing into piles that will either go back home or come with me to Belgium, and then I sorted out the paperwork. I made an appointment with my doctor as I have some paperwork that she needs to see and I need a form signing. That’s for Thursday morning.

Once I’d organised that, I went off out and about.

first stop was the garage. It’s time for Caliburn’s Controle Technique on Thursday afternoon, so I’ve booked him in for a service and a visual check to make sure that there’s nothing about to drop off on the road.

The bank was next. There’s an important bill to pay and if I don’t pay it soon I’ll be transported for life or something so that was urgent. And then I went to the Intermarché for a bit of shopping.

Finally, I ended up back at my house where I dropped off a pile of stuff, stripped out the back of Caliburn and gave him a good brushing out, and now I’ve installed my temporary bed in there for when I go back to Belgium. I couldn’t find the OSB that I use and ended up having to use a sheet of plywood as a bed base. It’s not very satisfactory, bending and creaking in the middle, but it will have to do for now until I can think of something better.

But I’ll tell you something – and that is that I’m clearly not well. Two hours of working on Caliburn, and it wasn’t very hard labour that I was doing, and I was done for. I’ve no idea how I’m going to cope in the future if I can’t summon up the energy for this.

Instead of hanging out there to do more work, I ended up coming back here where I crashed out for three hours – really gone, I was. I’ll have to catch up back at home some other time.

Now that I’ve been to the shops and bought some garlic, I made one of my mega-curries tonight with mushrooms and lentils. But there’s plenty left for the next few days because I couldn’t summon up the appetite.

Now I’m off to bed again and to listen to the radio programmes for a while. I’m ready for a good sleep, even though I’ve already had a good sleep just now.

I can’t keep it up like I used to.

Monday 21st March 2016 – SO OFF I SET …

new access hotel crouy soissons france… from Ice-Station Zebra at 09:15, straight into the Intermarché over the road for a tomato and baguette to go with my vegan cheese for lunch. And of course, with it being Monday, there was no fresh bread. Still, start as you mean to go on, hey?

But I got my own back on the hotel for the miserable night that I’d had here. I helped myself to an extra mug of coffee, an extra orange juice and a third lump of bread to go with the jam – so saving on the heating didn’t save them anything in the long run. But as I have said before, at €35 per night plus €5:00 for the breakfast, I have no reason whatever to complain.

The drive up to Leuven was totally uneventful except that it took ages to find a boulangerie, but it was well worth the wait as the bread was beautiful. And I almost lost my way in Maubeuge, so much has it changed since I was last here years and years ago. But one thing that I discovered was that just half-an-hour from where I spent the night, on the outskirts of Laon, is an “Ibis Budget” hotel. More expensive than where I spent last night, to be sure, but the heating will probably work and they do have private facilities. As well as that, Laon has a very interesting history and is one of the places on the list of “towns to see before I die”. Consequently, I have made a note of the hotel.

But I’ve forgotten what a dirty, depressing place Belgium is. You can see it as soon as you cross the border. And the roads can match the worst that Labrador and Northern Quebec can offer. They are a disgrace to the western world. I can see now why I left the place as soon as I could.

So while I’m stopped at Heverlee Services eating my butty, let me tell you about last night’s travels.

We started off with something to do with a sandbank in the English Channel. It was only visible at low tides and then only on occasion, and there was one permanent settlement on there, with ust one permanent inhabitant. Although it was a British possession, it was accessible by some kind of causeway from the French mainland. You could see by some kind of heat-map or similar that the English Channel was very low in places and that there were these semi-submerged sandbanks all over the place.
But from there I was on my holidays, in a chalet on a sand dune somewhere. There was some bad feeling here at this place and I was the centre of it for some reason. I’d heard that some people were planning to attack me when I returned home, but I was out for a walk and going to buy some milk (I’m not sure why) and some bread from the shop. I scrambled up over a dune and came past the chalet of the owners who pointed out a sandbank to me (could this have been the earlier one that I was talking about?) but anyway I scrambled on to the camp shop. Here, I was chatting with the proprietor and he told me about one or two incidents on the camp so I told him that I’d already been attacked but I had fought off my attackers with a milk bottle and described in gory detail just how I had done it.

Alison rang me up while I was eating my butties. She was finishing work early and so she would be home by 15:00. so at 15:05 I was outside her house, with her waiting for me at the gate. She introduced me to Brian and we all had a cup of coffee.

Alison and I worked together at that weird American company – The Conference Board. That was a strange place to be – a ruthless American company operating a ruthless American employment regime and being upset by the constraints imposed upon it by European employment law. Not only that, it was living about 30 years behind the times in its commercial approach and was resisting all efforts to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. There were only 4 of us who were anything like normal, and we had all gone within 12 months. And if I’m classing myself as “normal”, you must really all be wondering about the others.

We had such a chat and so much to talk about that I didn’t realise that it was well after 23:00 when I staggered up into the attic. She has a lovely house – an old 2 bedroom end-of-terrace house with about 5 different extensions so it’s like a labyrinth inside and it’s wonderful.

So now I’m tryng to get myself ready for my hospital appointment tomorrow. This is the crucial moment in my life so I need to be on my best form.

Monday 25th January 2016 – B*GG*R!

And so I had the phone call – at 17:27 precisely. “Mr Hall – you need to come into hospital for a blood transfusion. Your blood count has dropped right down to 6.8”. That is, incidentally, the lowest that it has been during this whole procedure except for the day that I crawled into the doctor’s.
“But do I really need to come in? I’m coming in for good on Wednesday anyway and I’m having a blood transfusion as soon as I arrive”.
“I’m afraid that you do – in fact you need to come in to the Urgences right away”.
And so after a brief discussion, I packed my bag. Liz had just come home from work and luckily, there was a vegan lasagne to hand in the fridge so I managed to have a meal this time before I set out.

It also gave me an opportunity to reflect on my last night’s voyages, where for the first time for ages, I was accompanied by no-one that I knew (except for a very brief cameo appearance right at the end).

We were in the USA last night. There were three guys, two of them were quite sedate teenagers and the third was quite wild. Something had happened involving the farces of law and order and they had had to flee from their homes. This is the story of their drive to safety, something like Thelma & Louise or Fandango as they fled north towards the Canadian border. The two sedate guys were fleeing together and eventually the police caught up with them and flagged them down. The third guy turned up on his own a short time later, bringing with him some shoes that he had … errr … borrowed along the way. He found himself on this fuel station and was immediately surrounded by the police, so he gave himself up. It turned out that the person who had been doing all of these dreadful things against these boys, causing them to flee, was wanted by the police himself and on some quite serious charges too, and once this had all become clear, they began to be treated as witnesses rather than as criminals themselves. The third boy, the one with the shoes, was told by the police “ohh yes, you were bringing the shoes to us, weren’t you? You were coming here to meet up with your friends and to bring us the shoes as evidence”. Of course, he immediately agreed and so this car chase ended on a happy note and everyone lived happily ever after. This fuel station where we were was one of these places that was clad in green corrugated iron (the modern angular stuff) that was quite close to a road junction that was a diagonal T-junction. The main road was flanked by a row of buildings with the side turning diagonally backwards and the petrol station was up the side turning behind the buildings on the main road. And in the corner right up behind the service station right up against the back of the buildings was a kind of café in a portakabin made of the same material. I’d been reading some instructions somewhere in this fuel station about petrol stations that sold bottled gas for parties, barbecues and so on. It listed all of the places where you could go to buy it, and one group of places that was listed was a group of petrol stations that were struggling to survive now that they had lost their Phillips Petrol franchises. I remembered something in the back of my head that I had heard while I’d been on my travels about Phillips Petrol Stations not being allowed to sell bottled gas. But as soon as they had lost their franchises, they had started to sell everything, including bottled gas, as they fought for survival. Anyway, these two boys decided that with peace having broken out, they would go home and this would be the end of their adventure. The third guy decided that he would carry on, head north and into Canada, pawn the car that he was driving (which was someone else’s car anyway) and make a new start in Canada. I decided that I would go back to Canada with him. But as I came out of the service station building onto the forecourt I had this astonishing feeling of déjà-vu that I had been here before – maybe when I had crossed over into the USA I had come here to buy some fuel and buy a coffee in the café. We can’t be all that far from the Canadian border here. As these two boys were leaving, they were going through their receipts and statements of their expenditure. One boy had a look of horror on his face “TWENTY …… ONE THOUSAND dollars for candy” in a very indignant tone. “really, I don’t think that I’m allowed that!”. The third boy and I had smiles on our faces. How on earth had he managed to spend that much money on sweets?
A little later, we had the story of two brothers, one of whom was brilliantly successful and the other who was not. The unsuccessful one lived in a big house and was clearly sponging off his other brother. A deal had been done somewhere and the successful brother had ended up some $150,000 light on it. On making certain enquiries he discovered that some document were missing. He went round to see his brother and they went through all of the papers and in the end the poorer brother admitted that he had them and this was part of the fraud that he had committed on his brother. The rich brother then asked for them back and put some very heavy pressure on the second brother. In the end the papers were handed over but the second brother then put his hand into his desk drawer and pulled out a recording unit. he had apparently been recording this discussion which had contained details of some of the evil deeds that the rich brother had done in order to get where he was today. Of course the richer brother wanted to have this recording but the poorer brother wouldn’t let him and so there was a fight and the richer brother ended up beating the second brother to a pulp in order to lay his hands on the incriminating recording. He walked back out to the front of the house where the second brother’s wife and some friends had been having some kind of party, but he explained that he had to go. He got into his car, which was a red Toyota kind of thing and drove away. A short while later, his wife said that they should go and check up on the other brother – it was the thing to do and they had other things to to anyway – so she went back to check. On returning, she said that he had crashed out and was having a really good sleep by the pool but she hadn’t looked really closely. And should they ring him up? It might spoil his sleep. The first brother, who had been something of an actor, ended up disguising himself as some kind of a tramp with 2 days’ growth of beard and shabby clothes. He walked into this Greyhound bus station and this was where I entered the scene. I was with someone else – it might even have been Rosemary but I’m not too sure and I was saying “this is how bus stations are in North America. It was in the open air, with the soil being that red compacted sandy soil that you find in the Utah Desert. We had apparently been talking about the pie huts in American bus stations before and here was one exactly like the one that we had mentioned, right on the corner at the bottom and there were loads of poorer people around here. We went into the waiting room, which was like a portakabin of exactly the same type as the café at the garage earlier this evening. We waited for our bus and this brother-disguised-as-a-tramp was in there talking to a girl. This girl was a network-marketeer and she was in someone’s network at quite a senior grade,called a Scooby-Doo in her network. She did a good deal of the motivational talks as she was really keen and really enthusiastic about it. This brother wasn’t really all that keen or enthusiastic about it – not really interested at all, but he needed someone to talk to in order to make some kind of convincing cover for himself.

I had my blood test after this (as mentioned above) and then breakfast. And then I found myself alone. Liz had to go off to work and Terry had a job on for today. I wasn’t up to much and so I stayed behind and did some work on my 3D project, wrote a letter and generally had a quiet day. That is, up until my phone call at 17:27.

I was on the road again at 17:50 heading north to Montlucon, stopping at the Intermarché at Pionsat to buy some bananas and a packet of biscuits. I’ve been stranded in the hospital without food before, as I’m sure you all remember.

There was a parking place outside the Urgences when I arrived at 18:45, so I didn’t have far to walk. I didn’t have long to wait in reception either, but once I’d crossed the threshold, the problems began. My previous history means nothing at all, apparently, and we had to start right from the beginning yet again, even down to the electro-cardiac tests. I had two doctors examining me too, and each one of them asked me exactly the same questions and did exactly the same tests.

While I was lying on a trolley in the corridor waiting to be assigned, a woman came over to me and had quite a friendly chat with me, as if she knew just who I was. It took me a while to figure it out but eventually I realised just who she was. She’s the surgeon who will be attacking me on Thursday morning. And doesn’t she look different in civvies? She reckoned that the horrible solution that I Just had to drink – allegedly to reduce the amount of potassium in my blood – was in fact a punishment for some misbehaviour that I’ve carried out.

But one thing in which she totally agrees with me – and that is that to have a blood count of 8.6 last Monday, and for it to be still 8.6 on Thursday and then for it to dramatically drop to 6.4 (because that’s what it was by the time that I arrived here) today is quite simply not normal. I’ve mentioned before another set of abnormal results from the Laboratory and so I wonder whether there’s something not quite right about the Laboratory.

The blood has finally arrived anyway – at, would you believe, 23:40. I’m being moved to a private room so they can feed it in. I foresee a very restless night.

5th January 2016 – BACK IN HOSPITAL

I told you yesterday that I had been summoned to the day ward today for a blood transfusion, so after at 7:00 am alarm and breakfast, I was off. There wasn’t much on the roads – at least as far as Montlucon – so I was lucky to arrive early and finding yet another good spec for Caliburn, right outside the hospital building.

And I’d remembered to take the second bank card too so that I could stop off at the bank on the way in. And now the Fighting Fund is looking a little healthier.

It was a good job that I arrived earlier at the hospital too because they were … errr … somewhat under pressure. I was lucky in being the first to arrive, for I could have the pick of the chairs in the day ward – right in the corner by the window by the power point. The others weren’t so lucky and to give you some idea of what was going on, our little ward for two people ended up with five of us in it – two on the beds, two in armchairs and one on a trolley. Maybe they REALLY couldn’t have fitted me in yesterday.

Putting the drain in my arm was another complicated manoeuvre that didn’t do me too much good and I can still feel it now.

We did have a stroke of luck though. Just after I arrived, the woman in charge of the kitchens came up to our ward to chat to the staff there just as they were counting heads for lunch. Hearing that I was “difficult”, she came over to chat to me about my vegan diet and, much to my surprise, at lunchtime I ended up with couscous, chards in sauce and a portion of lentil salad. It just goes to show what can be accomplished if you happen to fall in with the correct people.

Another surprising thing was that the blood was already there waiting for me. But it was freezing cold, so to warm it up I had to stick it up my jumper (and I bet that you think that I am joking too – the old traditional methods are much more effective than anything that modern science can come up with). And that meant that by 13:30 I was all done and dusted, and they threw me out.

Not too far though. I had to go up to the ward where I will be confined during my surgery, to pick up a letter from my surgeon. Of course, it goes without saying that it wasn’t ready (half a day is far too short a notice for a civil service secretary) but it did give me an opportunity to spy out the land while I was there. And I’ll tell you something – there are a few nurses up there who can sooth my fevered brow any time they like! There have to be some compensations for being seriously ill.

On the road again, I went round to Amaranthe to pick up some vegan cheese, only to find that it was closed for stocktaking, and to Leader Price to buy some Cheddar for Terry, but was sold out in both the branches that I visited.

I had more luck at the Clinique St Francois where I was finally able to pay my bill for the blood tests. And I’ll tell you what – I’m glad that I’m not having my operation there. The back wall of their clinic is the side wall of the local cemetery. I suppose that it’s quite handy for discreetly disposing of the surgical failures – a quick heave over the wall in the middle of the night – although it must be a discouraging view for the patients in the rooms at the back.

At Pionsat I picked up my outstanding medication, and so I went off to blag my way into the doctor’s for the injections that I need to have done to bolster my immune system (once the spleen goes, I’ll be relying on those to keep me going) but it appears than Bane of Britain has forgotten to bring the prescription with him.

But here’s a thing. Diesel at the Carrefour in Montlucon is currently 104.9 centimes. At the Intermarché in Pionsat, it’s just 99.9. It’s the first time that I’ve ever seen it cheaper there. Of course, I took the opportunity to fuel up – it’s over 100kms round trip to Montlucon and back even if I don’t go anywhere else, and that soon gets through a tank of diesel in Caliburn whose maximum range is about 750 kms or so. It’s a good job that I don’t have Strider here, who is much more thirsty and struggles to do 450 kms.

Back here I crashed out. I wasn’t up to anything at all. No food, no drink – nothing. Just like in the bad old days in mid-November. I had my injection and then crawled off to bed at some ridiculously early hour – even more ridiculous than the 20:00 of late.

Talking of bed, I’ve forgotten to tell you about last night’s adventures. I bet that you were counting your blessings, thinking that you had escaped from it all.

Not so lucky, are you then?

Anyway, last night was yet another night where there was so much going on and yet I can only remember a small amount of it. Going to bed at 20:00 or thereabouts just recently is certainly doing something for me.

We started off back at a house that I clearly recognised, but which I can’t now recall. I’d been somewhere in a car (and I can’t now recall which car) and by the time that I returned, the car was full of rubbish and totally untidy, not an unusual occurrence of course. I needed to empty the car completely before the long-suffering Nerina came back to witness the disorder, and my brother (what’s he doing here again?) came along to give me a pile of gratuitous advice. Nerina did indeed turn up, and sooner than expected too, but her car was in an even worse state than mine although that didn’t deter her from making a few acid comments.
I then moved on to another house where I was living with my family, although I don’t recognise this house at all. It was crammed with people and, furthermore, we’d let a room to three young men, a French guy (someone whom I’ve known for years but who bore more than a passing resemblance to a guy whom I know in Germany), the guy who married my youngest sister and a third guy, who may well have been the brother of the second. This had involved shuffling around the rest of the inhabitants and it was certainly causing a whole pile of confusion. It started off with me having to help a young boy of about 5 years old feed himself but that wasn’t working. He was being difficult about it and so I had to go up to the room where he had been sleeping to fetch something. He was one of the people who had been shuffled around but I had forgotten this, so I barged straight into the room where these other three people were. Back downstairs, by the time this boy had finished his meal, I reckoned that it was time for him to go to bed but he wasn’t convinced. There was only one clock in the house that was anything like reliable, and that was the bedroom where he had been sleeping. So up I went to check and, forgetting about the change of rooms, barged yet again straight into the room where these three guys were, without knocking. I was full of profuse apologies, to which they replied “it’s not a problem – it wasn’t as if we were doing anything”. My response was that knocking was a form of politeness (a comment that has a strange parallel with an event that occurred in “real time” a couple of days ago). Anyway, the young boy was correct – it was only 18:30 and far from being his bed time. It was however dinner time for the grown-ups and all of the family was there tucking in. And a few minutes later we were joined by our friends from upstairs who had to fight their way into the table as our family gives no quarter when it comes to sticking our snouts in the trough.

But all of this is really bizarre. There are several people making little cameo appearances in my night-time rambles. There are some to whom I’ve given no thought whatever for probably the last 45 years (if I ever gave them any thought back then), some people who wouldn’t give me the time of day in real life (and boy, could I tell you some stories about that), some people whose actions on the second plane totally contradict their actions on the first plane, and some people who remain totally true to type no matter on what plane of existence they are.

But never mind. As I have said before, and I’ll say again … "and again and again and again" – ed … my nocturnal rambles are much more exciting that what is going on currently in my real life, and that’s not something to be rejected.

I just wish that it was me doing the casting, choosing the characters who could take part in it. I’d have a much more exciting cast than this current lot (one or two people excepted).

Monday 4th January 2016 – SO NOW WE KNOW!

28th January is the day that is set aside for my operation. I need to come into the hospital the day before, at 09:00, so that I can have a major blood transfusion prior to the operation. And I can guess why.

But as for the rest of the details of the operation, my card is marked ne veut pas recevoir des informations – “doesn’t want to have any further information”. Yes, what is going to happen is going to happen regardless of whatever they tell me about it, and if they start to tell me about it, I’ll just spend the next three or four weeks losing sleep worrying. Frankly, I’d prefer to be walking calmly across the car park, to be clouted from behind by a pick-axe handle and wake up to find that the job has been done.

As it is, I’ll be spending at least a week in hospital afterwards while I recover – if I do – and that’s something that ought to worry all of you a great deal because if it does all go wrong, then I’m going to come back and haunt the lot of you. Especially if you are a female reader. I wouldn’t mind putting the willies up quite a few young ladies of the female sex and I have a list already prepared.

We can start with a young lady who has featured on these pages before. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall my mentioning a girl described as “the one that got away” from my evil clutches 20-odd years ago. She’s put in an appearance or two on these pages since then, and there she was again last night. I can’t remember where I was going or what I was doing for the first part of last night’s journey, but she was certainly there and her card will be amongst the first to be marked.
But after a nocturnal ramble down the corridor to the porcelain horse and back into the arms of Morpheus, I had a different partner in crime and I can’t now remember who it was. But whoever it was, we were also in the company of a couple of regulars from the Carry-On team, Sid James and Joan Sims included. We were somewhere up the north -west coast of Spain near the cape, whatever it is called, where one turns into the Bay of Biscay. The cape is a kind of headland that shelters a bay to the north-east and there was a big run-down house overlooking the bay, with a big sandy beach, rather like a cross between the setting in And Then There Were None and the old house in Carry On Regardless. Everyone was planning on going down there for a couple of days so my companion and I decided that we would seed the house with all kinds of practical jokes. This worked in spades and we certainly succeeded in putting the willies up the rest of our company.

From there, I waited for the nurse who was to take the blood sample and then I could have breakfast, followed by a nice hot shower. I must make myself all clean and tidy for the hospital after all.

At Pionsat I went to the pharmacy for the next round of prescriptions and then to the Intermarche for some bread and tomatoes, and then off to my house to inspect the property and see what else was going on. It was cold in my attic too, although not as cold as it might have been.

Back on the road I headed for Montlucon and tracked down the office where I need to go to pay for my blood tests. They’ve sent me a reminder. I didn’t stop and go in because there was nowhere in the vicinity to park and I didn’t have the time to walk any great distance. I went off to the Hospital for my interview with the surgeon and it was really busy – I found possibly the last parking place on the overflow car park.

The surgeon who will be operating on me is only a young girl (which is more an indictment of just how much I have aged than any criticism of her) and we had quite a chat, much of which was in Flemish. There has been quite a commentary on these pages about a certain hospital, the Universiteit Ziekenhuis van Leuven in Flanders – a hospital that has received several good remarks in its favour, and guess where this surgeon did her training? That’s right, the Universiteit Ziekenhuis van Leuven. And so it looks like I’m going to have the best of both worlds. I’m sure that if I ask her nicely, she’ll bring me a plate of fritjes.

In fact, I had quite a chat about my diet with one of the nurses there. She suggested a food hamper too.

In a desperate effort to kill two birds with one stone, I went up to the oncology department to see if they had received my blood results. Apparently not, so they rang up to enquire. Just 7.7, a decline of 0.3 in just 2 days. This is starting to become silly.

I do need to have a blood transfusion, according to them, so I explained about my 100km round trip to the hospital, explaining how it was wearing me out. But to no avail. They couldn’t do me now, sir. I’ll have to come back tomorrow. I went to the Carrefour and did some shopping instead.

We had a minor disaster on the way back. I’m using my Belgian bank account as a kind of fighting fund, but when I went to draw some cash out (there’s a branch here in Montlucon) I found to my dismay that my card expired at the end of December. That’s going to halt me full in my stride, without a doubt. I need to do something about this.

Vegan vegetable lasagne for tea (Liz’s gorgeous cooking is the one positive side of being ill, no doubt about that) and then another early night. I can’t keep it up like I used to, and having to go back to Montlucon means that I need another 07:00 start – never mind 07:45.

I shan’t be sorry when all of this is over, regardless of the outcome.

Thursday 17th December 2015 – ANYONE WOULD THINK …

… that it was me doing the tiling today, not Terry. Half an hour after lunch I was well out of it – two trips to Terry’s van and back with some stuff for here had finished me off. And back here, I was crashed out on the sofa at 18:00 and in bed by 19:15.

I’ve clearly seen better days – that’s for sure.

But a lot of this could be put down to the efforts that I had made during my nocturnal ramblings. I’d started off with something like a huge contemporary discussion about the qualities of different Roman emperors – and I can’t remember now with whom I was having this discussion. But from there I drove back (it’s good, this time-travel lark) to Stoke on Trent. None of the usual Clayhead characters out in an appearance unfortunately, but I do remember at a roundabout (it might have been one of the newish ones at Longton) I was confused by the exits, took the wrong one, and ended up on the road to Tunstall (a fictitious road of course but one that has featured on my travels before). It then occurred to me that there was one of these old-time sweet shops (just like there is in Longton) somewhere on this road and so I kept my eyes open for it. I ended up walking through this decrepit shopping centre-type of place to try to find it, to the accompaniment of jeers from several people lounging around – and what was that all about?
But back home I ended up chaperoning a young Shirley Temple-type of girl (as if I’d ever be asked to chaperone anyone of the female sex?) who was taking part in a singing competition that was to last all of the weekend. I asked her what would happen if she had to wait right at the end of the competition before it was her turn to sing, to which she replied that there were tons of things that we could do while we were waiting – have a party, go to the zoo, read stories.

No wonder I was exhausted!

So after my blood sample and a painful breakfast, we went off to Pionsat and the bank. I need to build up the fighting fund with all of this going on. Shopping at Intermarche was next, and there we met Clare, Julie and Anne who were off to Clermont-Ferrand for a fun day out. I fuelled up Terry’s van, seeing as how I had some money for once, bought my stuff for lunch and then shot off to the house for the tiling

When we arrived, the batteries were fully-charged already and the water temperature in the home-made 12-volt immersion heater that I use as a dump load for the surplus charge was slowly rising. That tells you everything that you need to know about the weather that we have been having just recently.

We had a visitor too! In the jungle that is Lieneke’s field opposite my front door we had a sanglier – a wild boar. We couldn’t actually see it but we could hear it grunting away and see all of the shrubs and bushes moving around as it prowled its way around. Magnificent beasts, these sangliers – I remember being up on my scaffolding when I was pointing the eastern wall and watching those two herds approaching each other and the eventual confrontation.

And while Terry carried on with the tiling, I did some desultory tidying-up. But my heart wasn’t in it and I couldn’t even cut straight today. In some respects I was glad when Terry decided to call it a day.

We’re a long way from finishing (I like the “we” bit, don’t you?) but the most difficult bits have been done. And I know that I promised you all a photo but Terry closed up the house while I was outside washing off the tools, so you’ll have to wait until next time.

And now back here, I’m in bed having an early night but I dozed off for an hour, woke up, and now I can’t go back to sleep again.

This looks as if it’s going to become a regular feature. I wish it didn’t, though, and I could have a decent 8-hours sleep.

Wednesday 16th December 2015 – I WENT BACK …

… to my house this morning. And what’s more, Terry came with me.

Terry has no work on at the moment and I’m not in much of a state to do much right now, and so I made an executive decision (an executive decision being one in which if it all goes wrong, the person making the decision is executed) that perhaps we should go and do the tiling in my shower room. It’ll give Terry something to do, it’ll help me catch up with work at the house, and so on and so forth.

So that was what we did.

But it didn’t work out quite like that – for the simple reason that my shower room is very small. There wasn’t room in there for both of us and so after five minutes in which we had done nothing but get in each other’s way, I left Terry to it.

And we’ll go back tomorrow and do some more too because by about 16:00 it was far too dark do do anything.

But while Terry was tiling, I was tidying up on the ground floor. And you can now actually see the floor in there, a huge pile of stuff has gone out into the lean-to, I’ve sorted out most of the tools that are in there and so on, and now there’s actually a pile of room to move about. If I can do as well tomorrow as I did today, it will be quite impressive.

Of course, we’d parked the van in the little lane at the back of my house to unload it as there was so much to do, and so of course, not having seen the farmer for months and months, it’s today that he decides to bring his cows to the field, so we have to move the van. You could have bet your mortgage on that, couldn’t you?

On our way to my house this morning, we went into Pionsat. I have a huge pile of used needles from my twice-daily anti-coagulant injections and I need to dispose of them. The pharmacy seemed to be the best place to start, and he gave me a couple of boxes to put them in and take them … to the dechetterie.

And so we did. And there at the Council tip at Pionsat, a woman worker took the box off me and put it in a much bigger box of the same shape and colour, to join many other smaller boxes in there. Apparently, it’s what you do around here. We also went to the Intermarché for some bread for lunch, and I met Nada there. I haven’t seen her for ages.

But back to the shower room, I stuck my head in once or twice to pass Terry tiles, or trim something down with the angle grinder, but I haven’t had a really good look in. I’m saving that for tomorrow because although it will be far from finished, it’ll be good for me to be surprised – pleasantly, I hope. I’ll post a couple of photos too if I remember, but I won’t be posting a photo of the ground floor because it is rather a mess, even with it being tidied up. There’s still too much rubbish in there, although I’ve nowhere else to put it and I need to make some extra room somewhere – anywhere!

On the way back here, we were pursued down the lanes by Liz whose last lesson of the day at Montlucon was cancelled. She’d seen some nice Christmas trees and so after a coffee, she and Terry nipped back up to St Gervais to do the necessary. After all, with little people being around, a Christmas tree is essential.

So I’m off to bed for an early night. I have a blood test in the morning and I need to be on form. And I hope that my blood count holds up because if it doesn’t, I can see me in Montlucon on Friday having another blood transfusion and I’m becoming rather fed up of them.